Wealth doesn’t have to mean extravagance – a point made by the British Royal Family who, for all their many palaces and bulging bank accounts are surprisingly careful with the cash.
Tales of the late Queen Elizabeth’s thriftiness abound, from turning off the lights in empty rooms to sending half a lemon (squeezed over her salmon only once!) back to the kitchen for reuse.
She was by no means alone – even if few have gone to the lengths of Queen Mary, the King’s great grandmother, who used to present ‘used’ flowers which had been taken from her own vases at home.
Frugal habits appear to have been passed down the generations, with William and Kate even seen on budget flights.
So as the nights draw in, why not save some pennies with these helpful royal hacks?
As one of the wealthiest women in the world, it’s likely the late Queen could have afforded to heat all 775 rooms in Buckingham Palace warm. But sticking to sound financial sense, she chose to warm up individual rooms with two-bar electric fires or convection heaters. Here she is shown greeting former Australian High Commissioner Mike Rann and his wife in 2013
Put that light out!
Queen Elizabeth was so committed to saving electricity that she was known to walk the corridors of Buckingham Palace at night turning off the lights.
As there are some 40,000 in Buckingham Palace, this was probably wise.
The Queen ordered that signs be put up throughout the palace saying: ‘The attention is drawn of all members of staff to the need to switch off unwanted lights. By Order of The Master of The Household.’
Prince Harry revealed in the BBC One documentary ‘Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70’ that his father, King Charles III, is another ‘stickler for turning lights off.
Prince William disembarks from Ryanair London Stansted to Glasgow flight in June 2015
Waste not, want not…
Carolyn Robb, the Palace’s chef from 1989-2000, disclosed that the Royal Family insists on saving left-overs and that Charles would make a point of requesting he be served only as much food as he wished to eat.
‘[Charles] was very economical and very much believed that nothing should go to waste,’ she said. ‘If we made roasted lamb and there were leftovers, we’d probably go and make Shepherd’s pie the next night.’
So committed is the King to the fight against excess, he has announced he will mark this 75th birthday on November 14 by launching an anti-food waste initiative, which he hopes will deliver an extra 2,500,000 meals a year to those in need.
His late mother seems to have taken the same view and was known to have returned half a lemon to the kitchen to avoid waste. Served along with smoked salmon Her Majesty had squeezed it only once and felt there was more that could be done with it!
King Charles asks to be served only as much as he can eat. Pictured: Charles and Queen Camilla at Cwm Berem Farm, Pontyberem in 2005
The Queen’s breakfast consisted of cereal which she served herself from a plastic container (stock image)
Despite being entitled to having just about anything she wanted served on a silver platter, the Queen often chose simple morning meals.
Famously, her breakfast cereal was stored in a Tupperware container, a fact revealed by an undercover journalist who had secured a post as a royal footman.
Charles, too, eats simply when he can and famously breakfasts on seeds and nuts.
A two-bar solution
Rather than heat an empty building, the late Queen warmed up individual rooms which cheap two-bar electric fires or convection heaters – electric radiators.
These have been spotted nestling in grand fireplaces at Buckingham Palace and Balmoral Castle even for visits of foreign dignitaries.
In February 2013, for example, Queen Elizabeth welcomed Mike Rann, the Australian High Commissioner, and his wife, Sasha Rann, at Buckingham Palace, while an electric fire glowed in the hearth.
It is said that her father, King George VI hardly bothered to heat Buckingham Palace.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, complained of howling icy draughts while staying.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, at home in Buckingham Palace with a roaring fire. Like their daughter, they preferred to heat rooms one by one…
Save the wrapping paper – and the pennies
The savings drive even extends to the festive season when, famously, the royals exchange low-cost, humorous Christmas gifts.
Historian Kate Williams reveals in her book, Young Elizabeth: The Making Of Our Queen,’ that the late Queen saved wrapping paper and ribbons so so they could be reused.
Make do and mend, mend, mend
Charles lives by the maxim ‘buy once – buy well’. He can afford to, of course.
But the result is that his clothes can be patched and repatched while looking good.
From waxed jackets to coats, suits and shoes, King Charles’ wardrobe is full of items that have been given a new lease of life.
As he told Vogue magazine: ‘I’m one of those people who hate throwing anything away. Hence I’d rather have them maintained, even patched if necessary.’
He explained he had a team to help with repairs.
‘I’m lucky because there are kind people who help with these things. But yes, I happen to be one of those people who’d get shoes or any item of clothing repaired if I can, rather than throw it away.’
Charles’s favourite shoes both have two leather patches on the side of the right foot and one on the top.
King Charles pictured with a repaired patch on his suit jacket as he arrives for a visit to Roath Lock Studio in 2013
Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, pictured wearing his tailored trousers as he attended Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene in December 2017
In 2008, Prince Philip asked his Savile Row tailor to change an elderly but favourite pair of trousers from the baggy style popular in the Fifties into something more contemporary.
Her Majesty the Queen was known to have her gloves washed and mended instead of ordering new ones.
Never too much of a good thing
If some in the public eye insist on a new look with each fresh appearance, the royals take a very different view, repeating items and even complete outfits on different royal engagements.
Princess Anne is one of the best-known for this, regularly recycling handbags, dresses and hats from as long ago as half a century.
But Kate, too, makes a point of getting maximum wear, even on the red carpet.
Nothing wrong with the high street…
For an outing in September this year, Kate chose a smart Zara blazer previously worn while supporting the England men’s football team for the Euro 2020 final
If the Princess of Wales chooses custom-made gowns on the red carpet, high street fashion usually does the trick while she’s out performing royal duties.
Making great efforts to be seen as relatable in her wardrobe , Kate often wears high street. Zara blazers are a particular favourite. And she’s happy to re-wear them.
A room without a view
Princess Anne’s frugal side came to the fore in 2014 when she was offered a room with a sea-view room at a picturesque harbour-side hotel in Oban.
Rebecca English, the Daily Mail’s Royal Editor reported that, when she discovered that the suite at the four-star Manor House Hotel in Oban was £225 for dinner, bed and breakfast, Anne immediately asked staff to change it for a cheaper one. Switching to the new room saved her £40.
On a 2022 tour to Australia and Papua New Guinea, the Princess Royal stayed in a budget hotel, packed her own bags, and did her own makeup and hair.
Princess Anne wearing one of her favourite recycled coats during a state State Visit in London in November 1982
Don’t turn your nose up at IKEA
During a 2018 visit to the National Museum of Architecture and Design in Stockholm, the royal couple revealed to Marcus Engman, IKEA’s head of design, that Prince George and Princess Charlotte had furniture from the store in their bedrooms.